Tiddlywinks is a game where small chips called winks are flicked into a receptacle. The game was traditionally associated with children, so it's appeared in a number of expressions implying that the pursuit is frivolous or straightforward. The name, which was originally trademarked as Tiddledy-Winks, has an uncertain etymology, although there are several contending origin stories. In the late nineteenth century, the singular word tidley-wink meant "unlicensed liquor store", and tiddley was a synonym for the noun "drunk", so tiddlywinks might have originated as a drinking game. These words would have an obscure dialectal origin. Alternatively, it has been proposed that tiddledy-winks was just baby-talk for "little", and that it's an arbitrary spelling of childish babbling, which could explain the large number of spelling variations.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.